Sutter Creek Engagement Session | Morgan + Vittawat

Morgan and Vittawat met in high school.  Yes.  That still happens.  Flash forward ten years and they are both in advanced academia, living apart and engaged.  This summer, Morgan was working and studying in Sacramento while Vittawat was still in their hometown in Reno.  When we started talking about possibilities for portrait locations, I was quick to suggest a Sutter Creek engagement session.  I had been following them on instagram for awhile and knew that they both loved wine, the outdoors and exploring as much as I did.  It was also equal distance between all of us, which made it convenient for Vittawat to get to as a weekend getaway with Morgan. 

It was partially a selfish request – I LOVE Sutter Creek.  I had been eyeing it as a portrait location forever.  My best friend’s parents live in the nearby town of Plymouth and some of my favorite clients ever (ahem, Jack and Kyle, as well as, Kerri and David) were wed there.  It’s my home away from home and one of the places in the world I feel most comfortable.  Wine, country and golden light – what’s not to love?  

Sutter Creek Engagement Session

There are more of my favorite images from Morgan and Vittawat’s Sutter Creek engagement session after the jump.  Here are some travel suggestions if you would like to visit the area yourself.  

STAY:  While the area has no limit to the kitchy bed and breakfasts’ available for the traveler that loves doilies and gardens, there are quite a few adorable boutique hotels here now as well.  

  • The Hanford House Inn is my personal favorite for staying directly in the downtown of Sutter Creek.  Downtown is a relative term: there’s one adorably quaint and walkable mainstreet.  Don’t let the tiny town fool you though – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness and charm and it has everything you would need within your reach: wine tasting rooms, a gourmet cheese shop, and a provisional general store.  Hanford House delivers warm fresh scones to your front door every morning and offers free wine tasting in the lobby every evening.  
  • Is there anything more adorable than a boutique hotel named Rest?  The answer is no.  Obviously.  Rest is only 20 minutes away from Sutter Creek in Plymouth, CA and it happens to be located within walking distance to my favorite restaurant, Taste, in the area.  
  • The Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano only offers four rooms over an exceptional restaurant, which happens to be owned by the same owners as Taste.  It’s been a longtime dream of mine to get a crew of people together to rent out the entire lodge one weekend for a getaway.  

EAT: it’s a sad state of affairs when you think the food in the foothills is better than the food at home, but it’s true.  I would drive two hours to eat at any of these restaurants! 

  • Taste has been awarded up and down every list imaginable that involves food and wine and for good reason.  I jump at any chance to eat there.  I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve been served and more often than not the meals come with a surprise delightful twist.  I’m a huge fan of their Monday Night Supper menu, which offers a first, main, and dessert course at a pre-fixe price along with wine pairings.  
  • You can’t suggest the Union Pub and Inn without including them on the eat recommendation list as well.  Their inventive seasonal menu changes frequently and it’s incredibly charming to sit on the patio and wine and dine on a warm summer night. 
  • Element is housed in the lobby of the Hanford House Inn and it’s my go-to brunch spot in the area.  Their daily egg specials always make your menu decisions incredibly difficult.  

DRINK:

  • Yorba offers small lot, premium bold wines from the Amador area.  Their tasting room is directly next door to the Hanford House Inn and their Shake Ridge Red is not to be missed.
  • Terre Rouge and Easton offers a wide selection of variety of everything Plymouth has to offer.  Their tasting room is unpresumptuous and their selection outstanding.  I love everything they offer (which is why I’m a wine club member) but their barbaras and zins really stand out for me.  
  • Helwig Winery is worth a stop for a picnic lunch just for the incredible view of their beautiful grounds, as well as a bottle of their bubbly rose.  
  • I love C.G. Di Arie for their inventiveness and spunk.  I became enamored with them after meeting the owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, a few years back.  It helps that they are NPR under-writers also.  Chaim was born in Istanbul, Turkey but immigrated to Israel as a teenager.  He has a PHD in food science and spent a number of years working to engineer the flavors and consistency behind some of America’s most beloved products (Hidden Valley Ranch!  Captain Crunch!).  His energy, enthusiasm and quirkiness won me over and this bleeds into his wines.  Their gallery collections offer something unique to the area: inventive heavy blends using grapes like the touriga.  

 

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wedding guest drinking

Creative Ways to Keep Your Open Bar Reception Classy

In Honor of National Tequila Day Last Week, Let’s Take a Look At a Very Important Piece of Your Wedding Planning–

The open bar.

A moment of honesty here. Initially this post was going to be about the pros and cons of having an open bar at your wedding, but who are we kidding? An open bar reception is just the right thing to do. It’s a kickback gift for all the family and friends who traveled near and far to see you commit forever to the love of your life.  They have paid for flights and purchased entire dishware sets and margarita machines all because of their love for you. They deserve this—a night of celebration, dancing and yes, free booze.  

 

wedding guests dancing

So, what’s the issue?

Of course, there are always concerns about those family members and friends who like to have a “really good time” (AKA, sloppy drunk Uncle Sean and drunken diva Aunt Debra). So instead of trying to convince you to go alcohol-free, here are a few creative ideas to keep everyone having a good time, while making sure they don’t end up dancing pantsless on your cake table before the night is over.

wedding guests

1. Offer a signature drink and limit the bar.

By “limit” I don’t mean limiting the amount of time people can drink or the number of drinks they can have, which some couples opt to do. Because doing that may also limit the lowered inhibitions that would lead people to the dance floor.  We are talking instead about limiting the drink options.  You don’t have to serve every guest their liquor of choice the whole night, which may inevitably cause the dancing on the tables we discussed earlier. (Think of your newly-turned-21-year-old cousin Dylan, taking Fireball shots like candy).  

Consider serving only wine, beer, and a signature drink or two of your choice.  You can make the signature drink something fun that matches your personality as a couple.  My personal favorite would be the frozen margarita because well, ice cold tequila, oh and memories of that awesome Spring Break trip to south Texas senior year in college. Make it your own, it is after all, your day as a couple.  If a guest doesn’t like the signature drink, that will prevent excessive trips to the bar, but a beer or two might get them just giddy enough to participate in the “Chicken Dance” as the night rolls on.

signature wedding drink

2.  Bring out a food truck

This may sound a little weird, but the point is to make sure that your guests have food the whole night.  A full stomach is a great way to slow down the abundance of alcohol hitting a person’s system.  I was a guest at a wedding once, where the couple offered table service for dinner, but towards the later parts of the reception they had friends bring their food truck out and offer free fries, appetizers and other “greasy style” bar food. Yes, people kept drinking the whole night all their drinks of choice, but there were plenty of guests who took breaks to check out the food truck options. If your venue won’t allow a food truck, consider bringing out some after dinner salty snacks that may match your menu.

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3.  Hire the “Soup Nazi” as your bartender

There is an episode of Seinfeld where all the friends fall in love with this amazing soup shop.  The owner however, is called the “Soup Nazi” because of his incendiary temperament and the strict manner he requires customers to behave when ordering.  If he doesn’t like your behavior, then “no soup for you.” This is the bartender you need for your open bar, just substitute “soup” for “drinks.”  No one wants to be the bride having to monitor their guests drinking behavior, and it really isn’t a task you want to pass along to your wedding party if you can avoid it.  If you’re having a Tahoe wedding, Tahoe local and Liquid Craft mobile bar owner is the perfect choice for this.  

So, try hiring a bartender who isn’t afraid to say no if they believe your guests are headed towards a “Coyote Ugly” style bar dance after one more drink.  If you know you have that crazy cousin who has a history of going too far when alcohol hits their system, you can also give your bartender a head’s up to be on the lookout for excessive bar trips so that they can either make the cut off or begin cutting back on the alcohol.  

Guests toasting

Cheers!

Hopefully, these tips will allow you to keep the alcohol flowing at your reception and the party poppin’ without the fear of someone ending the night swinging from the chandeliers. Of course, as an added buffer you can always remind guest that the entire evening will end up in photos that last forever. Now, twist open the tequila and get your guests on that dance floor.

 

Wedding guests dancing

Walking in a vineyard

Wineries of Fairplay | Cedarville Winery

Cedarville Vineyard is one of my favorite wineries of Fairplay.  Cedarville, owned by the amazing husband and wife duo of Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks, is sustainably and organically farmed.  They have amazing underground caves they designed to store wine, feature owl boxes to assist with pest control, and use rotating grasses, weeds and other crops under the vines to help keep soil healthy and pests to a minimum.  Jonathan and Susan were looking for a slew of marketing photos to have at their disposal for the vineyard.  It didn’t take much convincing (or any at all) to get me and some of my favorite people to the vineyard for a tour, a wine tasting, a picnic spread and some wandering among the vines.

Cedarville Vineyard is located in Somerset, CA and welcomes visitors for tours, tasting, and sales by appointment only. You can either email or call 530-620-9463 to set up an appointment.  You won’t regret it and tell them I sent you!

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Las Posadas Ranch Wedding

Las Posadas Ranch Wedding | St Helena, CA | Carla + Paul

Oh my goodness – THIS VENUE.  I want to return to Las Posadas Ranch and Vineyards again and again and again.  Although Carla and Paul were wed in the St. Helena Catholic Church, their reception venue is the place my dreams are made of: cascading vineyards for views, a large lush lawn for farm tables and backyard games, a huge barn for dancing the night away.  It’s essentially everything you might want for a rousing raucous relaxed outdoor affair in the heart of California wine country.

Other things worth noting: Carla’s wedding dress is actually her mother’s own dress, remade and restyled in secret for her by Marie-Margot Couture.  It was an incredibly touching surprise for Carla’s mother, who had no idea!  They had a photo of her mother in the original dress on display at the reception as well.

Also, these people had some killer dance moves!

Ceremony: St Helena Catholic Church | Reception: Las Posadas Ranch and Vineyards | Officiant: Fr Patrick Stephenson | Invitations: Minted | Florist: Centerpiece Floral and Home | Bakery: Mise | Caterer: Fume Bistro | Musicians: Geoffrey, Genevieve and Clement Say | DJ: Wine Country Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Redesigned Vintage by Maggie Burns of Marie-Margot Couture | Veil: Marie-Margot Couture | Bridesmaid Attire: BHLDN | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Groomsmen Attire: Calvin Klein | Hair and Makeup: Whirlwind Salon | Rentals: Bright Rentals

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Plymouth CA Same Sex Wedding

Plymouth Wine Country Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Jack + Kyle

Today is Kyle’s birthday, so it seems fitting that I gift him with a few more sneak peeks of he and Jack’s amazing Plymouth wine country wedding day.  Jack and Kyle not only live in Amador Country wine country, but they are fully immersed in it: their home is atop a 360 degree view of vineyards and Jack works for Scott Harvey Wines.  If you haven’t had a taste of what Scott Harvey has been producing lately, then you are missing out.  I recommend picking up a bottle of 2013 1869 Zinfandel today!

The boys wanted a completely relaxed backyard affair on their private estate, surrounded by friends and family.  Food, wine, family, and friends are important to this couple and the day completely focused on all of these things.  Scott Harvey wines were poured liberally and the team from Sacramento favorites Mother and Empress pulled out all the stops with a farro burrata salad, grilled oysters, roasted potatoes with beer soaked melted cheese, unbelievably tender meat and sturgeon.

In order to really focus on their relationships with loved ones, the day was completely and incredibly unstructured.  The plan was two-fold, completely unconventional and I, of course, loved it: folks would show up in the late afternoon for appetizers, wines and cocktails and lawn games and then, at my word (yes, mine!), we moved everyone under an incredibly ancient and gorgeous oak tree, overlooking the sunset and vineyards for the ceremony.  Post ceremony, we moved back to the lawn for an al fresco evening dining experience under the stars.  Their ceremony was officiated by two of their best friends and both myself and, I think it’s safe to say, almost all of their guests cried almost the entire time.  In between tears of poignant joy and love for these two boys, we were all laughing hysterically thanks to gems like a “name-that-romantic-comedy” game that was played in the middle.  It was an incredibly tender and moving ceremony that left me feeling in awe of the sheer amount of love that can be given, shared, and accepted in the world.

The events of the last few days have left me heartbroken and distraught.  You know it’s bad when I can’t listen to NPR.  These two incredible men and the beautiful people that surrounded them on their wedding day are remarkable examples of the possibility and far reaching effects of love: it envelopes you in warmth and joy, shares and forgives, laughs and cries, and is an enduring example of the goodness of humanity.  I have to believe that love, and in turn, empathy and kindness, will always prevail in our world.

Venue: Private Estate, Plymouth, CA | Catering: Mother/Empress | Grooms’ Attire: Kait MCKee | Day-Of Coordinator: Allison Caruso of Turley Wines

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Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding

Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Kerri + David

I have this small disclaimer on my wedding services page that states, “I will always work with budgets if I feel you and your wedding are a right fit.”  People either get it or they so clearly don’t.  The ones that get it send me amazing emails filled with personal details about why they are a good fit.  Kerri and David were some of those people.  She wrote in her email, “I’m trying to surround myself with people on my wedding day that have good/fun energy.”  Kerri talked about how important it was to her to include vendors who fit the bohemian intimate vibe they really wanted to recreate at their Rancho Cicada Retreat wedding.  They couldn’t have picked a better venue for what they were going for either: Rancho Cicada Retreat is a special place.  It’s a no-frills setting that you can rent for the entire week.  It’s lush, overgrown, and green with a brambling brook, hammocks and lawn games.  It’s a place where you can stay up late drinking whiskey by the campfire and no one comes to hush you.  It’s the kind of place where you can dance the night away and there is nary a neighbor to hear you.  It’s the kind of place where you can get married in an idyllic wonderland of green and golden hues, surrounded by as many of your friends and family as you want.  Although it is smack in the middle of one of California’s best wine regions, it feels like you are the only people in the world while you are there.

It’s the kind of venue that breeds a DIY affair and Kerri and David’s was certainly that.  Friends baked all the pies, officiated, and MC’d the night.  The party went on all weekend and their friends and family were so lovely and including that once again at this venue, I stayed and partied the night away in their company.  It seems to happen at this venue.  It’s clearly where the cool couples wed and I certainly can’t wait to return!  I’m feeling pretty grateful that Kerri found me and wrote to me so honestly and candidly and with such emotion.  It was clear from the get-go that these two are full of love and care and it was even more apparent on their wedding day.  Thanks Kerri and David for sharing your wedding retreat with me.  It was an honor!

Venue: Rancho Cicada Retreat | Florist: Matthew Armbruster | Catering: Chuck Collison | Bride’s Attire: Holly Stalder | Groom’s Attire: Thailand | Groomsmen Suspenders: Suspender Superstore | Make-Up: Hawley Lopes | Hair: Amanda Lyn Jones | Rentals: Partysmart Rentals | Videographer: DGL Studio | Succulents : The Succulent Source | Decor: BHLDN | Bridal Bouquet: Eucca Floral Studio | Signage: Marrygrams | Cornhole Boards: Back 40 Life | Cornhole Bags: Sky Pixie Cornhole | Koozies: The Drinking Buddy

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Bluxome Street Winery Wedding

Bluxome Street Winery Wedding | San Francisco, CA | Liz + Engin

All weddings should have farm tables.

All weddings should have relaxed planners and coordinators as amazing as the gals at Posh & Folk.

All weddings should have catering as delicious as the family style meal provided by Melons.

All weddings should have succulents in their bouquets.

All weddings should be at wineries.

This Bluxome Street Winery wedding was nothing short of understated elegance and refined comfort.  It was absolutely perfect for Liz and Engin, who met over wine and envisioned a simple yet stylish evening surrounded by loved ones.  Basically, they nailed it.

I regret not eating pie.

Venue: Bluxome Street Winery | Planning and Coordination: Posh & Folk | Minister: Rev. Maggie Beretz | Florist: The Floral Loft | Caterer: Melons Catering | Bakery: Three Babes Bakeshop | DJ: Heart of Gold DJs | Gown: Allure Bridals | Bridesmaids’ Attire: Rent the Runway | Hair and Makeup: Sacha Badame | Rentals: Bright Rentals

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Bluxome Street Winery Wedding

Bluxome Street Winery Wedding | Engin + Liz | Sneak Peek

Liz and Engin came to me by way of a close friend from high school and I’m so thrilled they did.  Liz is unbelievably kind.  She pays attention to every word you say in a wonderfully earnest way that makes you feel like the most important person in the room.  She’s funny and gracious and Engin is a most wonderful complement to her.  Their ceremony and reception were simple, yet elegant and in a dream venue for me: a winery tasting room!  The Bluxome Street Winery was the perfect location for this dynamic duo because they met over a glass of wine.  Thanks to some help from the fabulous ladies at Posh & Folk, who were the best and most relaxed and organized wedding planners I’ve ever worked with, the event space was styled out in and flipped in mere minutes for a gorgeous family style dinner that I can’t wait to share photos of.  In the meantime, here’s a few frames from Liz and Engin’s wedding day.

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Rock Wall Winery Portraits

Alameda Engagement Session | Lauren + Tim

These two.  I’m so happy they found me and I cannot wait for their West Shore Cafe wedding next March.  Lauren grew up in Texas so I feel right at home with her.  She’s as comfortable in cowboy boots as she is in a dress.  They both love day drinking and specifically, wine.  They believe in the power of breakfast (and possibly even second breakfast) but we didn’t cover that.  Clearly, we are meant to be best friends forever.

They have a fabulous house in Oakland that I adore and for their engagement session, of which, I shall note, Tim emphatically did not want to participate in, we decided to run around to some of their favorite picturesque neighborhood haunts that also involve wine.  Lake Merritt was the perfect spot to start in: one could definitely waste spend away the entire day drinking on the deck of The Lake Chalet.  Next stop up was their local winery.  Lauren and Tim are founding members of the wine club and I have to say the Zin I tried was excellent.

In the end, we ended up with an awesome batch of photos for their session and a super wonderful afternoon.  I couldn’t have asked for a better couple to enjoy my afternoon and evening with!

LOCATIONS

Oakland |  The Lake Chalet Seafood Bar and Grill

Alameda | Rock Wall Winery

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Napa Girls Weekend

Sonoma Girls’ Trip | Published at Love + Wander

Love + Wander

Love + Wander has given me so much internet love over the last year and I’m super appreciative.  It’s a super rad little blog that’s specifically geared towards celebrating photographers who celebrate life.   I’m so thrilled to see this Sonoma Girls’ Trip on their blog last week.  Every time some of my work gets published elsewhere, it’s as if I get to relive the day and this was one of my absolute favorite days of 2014.

You can visit the full post via this link.   Feel free to share some love and thank them for supporting me by leaving comments on their post, sharing it or retweeting us!

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Sonoma Wine Weekend